Is Labour Still A Labour Party? - asks Robert Griffiths general secretary of the CP, writing in the Morning Star. In the excerpts of a new CP pamphlet that follow, ROBERT GRIFFITHS asks what recent reforms will mean for working-class representation in Britain.


An important aspect of the struggle for an alternative to austerity and privatisation will be the battle over Labour’s manifesto for the 2015 general election.

The Communist Party is clear that the Tory-Lib Dem coalition must be defeated, which means supporting the election of the only practical and viable alternative, namely, a Labour government.

This need not require support for every Labour candidate, especially where communist and other candidates may be standing on a broad left platform against the worst Labour champions of neoliberalism and imperialism.

That notwithstanding, only a Labour victory in the general election overall would raise people’s morale and determination to fight for left and progressive policies.

In the meantime, in order to help secure such a result, maximum pressure must be exerted on the Labour leadership to propose a winning programme.

At the forefront of Labour’s manifesto should be a commitment to end the austerity and privatisation offensive. Real increases in wages, benefits and pensions would boost living standards, production, investment and employment. Selective price controls on rents and fares would bring relief to the many millions of people on low incomes.

A massive council-housebuilding programme would give hope to many families and young people desperate for a home of their own, as well as creating up to a million new jobs.
A Labour pledge to take the gas, electricity, water and subsidised postal and railway industries back into public ownership would be a vote-winner. Britain’s repressive anti-trade union laws should be repealed and employment rights expanded.

Such a left programme could be financed by abolishing Britain’s useless nuclear weapons and reducing military spending to the average European level; taxing the rich, financial speculation and big business profits more equitably; and ending the tax haven status of overseas territories under British jurisdiction.

Nor should the connections between domestic and international matters be neglected, which is why the labour movement needs to develop its own independent foreign and defence policy in opposition to the EU and Nato, and in favour of fair trade, social justice, popular sovereignty, international co-operation and peace.

While it is unlikely that many of these policies will be accepted by the Labour leadership, arguing for them will raise the level of political understanding in the labour movement, better equipping it for the tasks ahead.

This battle of ideas will be central to the debate which needs to be taken forward urgently about reclaiming or re-establishing the labour movement’s mass party.

In particular, ways have to be found to engage the trade unions more extensively in this discussion, however difficult this may be in the run-up to the general election and during any post-victory honeymoon period.

Trade union bodies at every level — up to and including the Trades Union Congress — should organise discussions, meetings and conferences to consider the future of the Labour Party and how more workers can be drawn into political activity and representation.

The proposal floated at the 2014 Campaign for Labour Party Democracy conference that unions form their own, distinct party affiliated to Labour like the Co-operative Party merits further consideration.
It would need to have its own policy-making conference, elected leadership and financial autonomy.
Such an initiative could give unions a clearer, stronger and collective political voice both inside and beyond the Labour Party — all the more so if it did not operate bans and proscriptions on some union members, such as communists, who pay the political levy.

Were unions to decide later that they need to re-establish their own mass party outside the Labour Party, much of the initial preparatory work would already have been done.
In any event, full account will also have to be taken of the national question when seeking to solve the crisis of working-class political representation.

In Wales, the Labour Party and the Welsh Labour government pursue policies which broadly reflect a social democratic outlook, notably support for jobs and public services, selective nationalisation and the rejection of privatisation of health and education services.

While Welsh Labour is not organisationally independent, it may have to assert its own political and organisational autonomy in order to retain trade union influence in its own policy-making processes.

In Scotland, Labour has followed much the same political line as the leadership centrally, although its April 2014 conference indicated that this may be changing.

However, Scotland’s separation from the rest of Britain would mean that, inevitably, any developments in a positive direction would take place in an increasingly different and separate set of political conditions.

Striving for greater clarity, understanding and agreement across the labour movement needs to proceed before current problems of demoralisation, fragmentation and division worsen.

As the left’s only daily paper, with six Labour-affiliated unions (including Unite, GMB and the CWU) and three non-affiliated unions (including the RMT) on its management committee, the Morning Star is especially well placed to stimulate the debates and initiatives necessary to help resolve the crisis of working-class political representation.

Strengthening the Communist Party and its influence would also contribute directly to bringing about a positive solution.

This is because the CP is rooted in the labour movement, organised to build mass campaigning and seeks to apply its Marxist outlook to vital strategic questions in an undogmatic, non-sectarian way.

Indeed, a bigger and more influential CP, active on every front of the political class struggle, unifying in its approach, unwavering in its commitment to socialism, imbued with internationalism, would be invaluable in the effort to rebuild labour’s mass party.

Tony Benn appreciated the role played by the Communist Party in the fight for progress and socialism. He also enjoyed pointing out that the problem on the left in Britain is not so much a shortage of socialist parties as a shortage of socialists.

Today, we need more socialists in order to reclaim the labour movement for socialism, as well as reclaiming or re-establishing a mass party for the labour movement.

This will only happen if the left and the trade unions make a conscious effort to discuss and project the ideas and values of socialism.